SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
You know those boxing or UFC PPV’s that snatch the $70 right out of your pocket thanks to one fight? Oh, the one-fight cards. We all know them, love them, and hate them.
That is Clash Of Champions this year. Sunday night, WWE will run the B-level PPV Clash Of Champions, but the card itself is more the level of a C with one match providing the interest and intrigue that will pull some eyeballs off of Sunday Night Football and onto the WWE Network.
That one match is Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso for the WWE Universal Championship. Roman Reigns as a heel, taking on his bloodline in Uso. Pretty big stuff. Jey Uso isn’t a name we’re used to seeing on the marquee, but Sunday’s match against Reigns helps feature him in a new light. Most importantly, he’s tasked with being Roman’s first dance partner as the bad guy on Smackdown.
I don’t want to get too overdramatic about it, but this match is massively important to the future of WWE. Roman Reigns, the prominent babyface star of the last five years, flipping into a role that’s infinitely more comfortable for him, but just as uncomfortable for investors and partners with business interest that have seen their bank accounts lined with dollars throughout his babyface run on top. In Roman’s five year stranglehold on the main event scene, WWE has become more mainstream than ever and the company signed two of the most lucrative TV contracts in their history.
See? It’s a one-match show. However, like most one-match shows, you don’t want to miss it. It’s important. Call this a preview, a calm look into the distant future, or a gaze into a wondrous crystal ball; just don’t hold me to anything, ok?
Bayley vs. Nikki Cross – WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
So, when both competitors in the match have better stories and feuds going on outside the match, I’m comfortable going out on a limb and saying that something just isn’t right. This is obvious. Nikki Cross is working through a story with Alexa Bliss and Bayley is entrenched in the preliminary waters of a blood feud with Sasha Banks. Both of those stories are significantly more interesting than this match. Look for this match to emphasize that fact. This is the perfect opportunity for both Banks and Bliss to get involved to further those independent storylines while protecting both Cross and Bayley.
Apollo Crews vs. Bobby Lashley – WWE United States Championship
The build to their last match at Payback was more organized and more engaging. The last match was centered around the United States Championship. On Sunday, that title is on the line, but it’s importance has fallen off the rails with the story of Cedric Alexander betraying Crews moving front and center. It’s now about Alexander against his former friend in Crews, but Lashley is in place of Alexander? I get it, Crews gets a rematch and Lashley is holding the title. Still, because the focus has shifted to be more personal between the Hurt Business and Crews, the significance of the title has waned and that was a selling point of the match last month. The Hurt Business is hot right now. Look for Lashley to retain in strong fashion so as to keep that momentum moving forward.
Drew McIntyre vs. Randy Orton – WWE Championship Ambulance Match
The fact that Keith Lee’s introduction to the main roster was stepped on to get to this match leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Why? It simply didn’t need to be. Orton and McIntyre had a suitable story going on their own. It was one of revenge, but also of wanting to be the best. That was working. Adding Keith Lee not only took away from the story developed between Drew and Randy, but it neutralized Lee’s momentum and forced nonsensical matches to take place on television prematurely. Ambulances matches are always a mess due to the rules not being effectively designed, but that may work out in WWE’s favor on Sunday. The undefined rules can lead to a situation where Drew loses the championship to Orton, but is protected in that loss. With the WWE Draft on the horizon and Roman Reigns needing a big time babyface to play off of in the near future, I’m looking at Orton walking out of the Clash with the title on his shoulder.
Jeff Hardy vs. A.J. Styles vs. Sami Zayn – WWE Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match
This has worked for me. Hardy, Styles, and Zayn have all stayed in their lanes in terms of their character work and each have a viable claim to the Intercontinental title. Seems like a good reason for a ladder match to me. My hope is that these guys don’t get too wild with their spots and tell a good story instead. I’m not interested in seeing a car wreck here, as Styles, Zayn, and Hardy are each capable of more. I can’t shake the notion of Hardy missing a big ladder spot and Zayn scurrying his way up the ladder to win the match. So, let’s go with that.
The Street Profits vs. Angel Garza & Andrade – WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
Again? I probably could leave the analysis at that, which is not a good sign for this match. We’ve seen way too much of this. From a match perspective, where else do they go? Worse though, the story has dried up. Garza and Andrade are so turbulent as a tag team that any other tag team that gets a win over them wins nothing due to the fact that they aren’t a well-oiled team any longer. The Street Profits need more to continue to grow as top acts in the tag division. They can get hot as a team, but need the right opponents in order to do so. Garza and Andrade aren’t those opponents anymore. Still, the Raw tag team division belongs to the Street Profits right now. That won’t change on Sunday.
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler vs. The Riott Squad – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Ok, if you remove the notion from your brain that this position on the card is far beneath Shayna Baszler, this program has worked nicely. It’s simple, yes. Simple can be good though. Baszler and Jax look like monsters and the Riott Squad pull off tough sympathy well. The match has some stakes behind it, too. What more can you ask from a low card women’s tag match? Now, Baszler needs a win here and she’ll get it. If WWE ever wants to put her on top of the women’s division again, she has to get back the confidence she had in NXT that revolved around wins.
Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso – WWE Universal Championship
The moment we’ve all been waiting for. This match is all about Roman Reigns. Its entire purpose and design is for Reigns to continue getting over as a heel. Uso has done a nice job in creating a foundation of sympathy that Reigns can spear away out of existence, but he’s set that table nicely. Its on Reigns now. He’s appeared comfortable and believable in his new heel skin and its important that we see that attitude join him in the ring for a match. Reigns will keep the title here, but will do so in a way that clearly shows a divide between him and his cousin. That could mean a severe beating or some cheating. Either way, this is the Reigns show and all eyes will be on him to see how he delivers.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S TAKE: HEYDORN’S TAKE: The G1 tournament is here, enjoy the grind